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I want to start brewing, but I also like to keep my spending in check. Are there any methods or ways to craft a quality brew while not breaking the bank?

Are some hops cheaper than others? Cheaper beer styles? I would like to start in the price range of $100-200 dollars, but have no idea as to what the most efficient way of spending this is when it comes to brewing.

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see homebrew.stackexchange.com/questions/1/…. You can spend $80 on equipment, and then just buy your beer kits. –  mdma Feb 8 '12 at 18:15
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5 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Back in about 1971,I found a recipe for homebrew in an alternative newspaper called the San Jose (CA) Redeye. Without a doubt, this kit (and kaboodle)was cheap. A 10 gallon plastic waste basket was the primary fermenter. SaranWrap was the "lid". The most expensive component was a hydrogemeter, which may not have been needed, but added a bit of weird science to the whole project. Blue Ribbon Malt Syrup was used for the wort, available only at Lucky Supermarkets in San Jose. Boil the wort, which was Santa Clara County tapwater,let it cool, pour it into the plastic waste basket, throw in some regular old Fleischman's bread-making yeast, add a bag (I forget weather it was 3 pounds or 5 pounds) of C&H pure cane sugar (from Hawaii),saving a couple of cups for "bottlin' sugar" to create carbonation, let it sit for a couple of days covered with SaranWrap, check the alcohol content (specific gravity) with the hydrogemeter every day or two. When it reached a certain point (which point I can't remember...) it was time to bottle it. We used old 7-Up and Squirt quart-bottles that we bought a the local fleamarket. Rule of thumb: the more sugar used, the greater the alcohol content.

Then, when specific gravity was appropriately attained, pour in the extra couple of cups of "bottlin' sugar", let it set for a bit, then siphon the brew (sure smelled good at that point) out of the plastic waste basket using some clear plastic "aquarium" tubing, into your 7-Up-Squirt quarts, and cap'em. (the capper was about 5 bucks back then, and we considered it an investment in the future), we got new caps somewhere...cork lined. We put the stuff in my parents' basement and let it sit for at least two weeks, but could hardly wait to sample the stuff, which we did after about a week-and-a-half. All the yeast sediment clung to bottom of the bottle, but that was de rigueur for the process and you had to carefull pour it...no filtration. It was all right, completely unlike what we were used to in commercial beers like Bud, Coors, et al. The carbonation was awesome, leading to much flatulence and eructation, but I remember sitting on a lawn chair watching the sunset out over the Los Gatos hills and feeling quite content. The recipe's yield was something like 8 gallons. Later on I tried fancier approaches and got a better, albeit more-expensive-to-make beer.

The craft brewing industry was still in the future, there were no fancy homebrewing shops, although I believe Red Hook, out of Ballard, WA was just starting up, and even though I graduated from Chico State in 1976, Sierra Nevada Brewery was still non-existent...

T.B. Beaudeau San Diego Reader

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Thanks! I'm pretty sure this takes the cake for the cheapest route possible, ha ha. Nice story too –  PAULDAWG Feb 13 '12 at 16:19
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Nice story. Reminds me of a very similar one my uncle told me about his homebrewing start right around the same time period. One summer he and a friend had a similar kit and figured if they were going to go to the trouble of brewing a 3 gallon batch, they may as well brew 55 gallons. They got a giant 55 gallon drum-style trash can and set the wort to ferment in a vacant rental property the friend's brother owned. Returning two days later, they found themselves up to their ankles in krausen - a product of far too much sugar. They spent the rest of the summer cleaning it up - sober, I assume. –  HaL Feb 14 '12 at 18:01
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While not a complete answer in itself, I thought I'd share a datum.

Specialty yeast can get quite expensive, up to $20 for a batch. You can stick to basic all purpose yeasts like Safale US05 or Danstar Nottingham (or lash out on something more boutique) and reuse your yeast from batch to batch. Search this site for heaps of advice. techniques, etc and read How To Brew by John Palmer (online version is free!)

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My local homebrew shop sold me a complete starter kit for about $65 plus tax. I ordered a brew kettle from Northern Brewer for $38 and a few extract kits ($35-50/each). That's pretty close to your range.

My suggestion is to at least visit your local shop (if you have one) and chat with the owner. It's a good way to get some valuable advice and maybe plug into the local homebrew scene, clubs, etc.

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I seem to recall my starter kit (including a kit of Cooper's PA (which included a yeast packet) and another 2 lbs of pale LME) was had for under $80, including capper. The Cooper's was my choice; my LHBS gave me the choice from among various they had on the shelves. Other than that, the starter kit included: fermentation bucket, vapor lock, tubing, stopcock (can save some aggro when racking), ... I don't recall what else, I think that might have been it. –  CaffeCaldo Feb 16 '12 at 6:20
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As others have stated, you can get your equiptment for well under $200.

Regarding your questions about beer styles, cost of ingredients, etc:

Hops aren't all that pricey, you can get enough for a 5 gallon batch for under $5. Malt Extract recipes don't require extra equipment and are therefore cheaper. In Denver you can get an extract kit for $30. Not sure if that helps or not.

Lager styles require refrigeration during fermentation, so unless you have a spare fridge or a cellar, that is a cost-limiting factor.

You also mentioned bottles. Start asking your friends to save their (non twist-off) bottles. I recently started homebrewing and the cost of new bottles shocked me.

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This is very good advice! Thanks –  PAULDAWG Feb 8 '12 at 19:32
    
Empty bottles cost almost as much as bottles filled with beer! Of course, you have to clean your commercial bottles when you're finished with them, so there is that cost. –  Dustin Rasener Feb 10 '12 at 13:21
    
Do NOT buy bottles. Anyone who wants to brew beer likely drinks beer, and has friends who do the same. A $10 container of Star San will last years and allow you to use commercial bottles. If you're particular about no labels, load up your dishwasher and take them out at the end of the steam cycle (but before the heat cycle). They will come right off. Upvoted! –  Pietro Feb 15 '12 at 16:01
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I'm not sure if the groupon is still active, but Midwest Brewing supplies had a very good deal on a starter equipment set. It also included a free beer ingredient kit. The brewing kit was in the range of $80.

**edit it is still active. http://www.groupon.com/deals/midwest-hydroponic-minneapolis-2?c=all&p=3 *

If i understand it correctly, you also recieve a good discount on a 2nd ingredient kit.

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Nice find! The kit doesn't come with any bottles/bottling equipment, though. Have to drink 5 gal in one sitting! ha –  PAULDAWG Feb 8 '12 at 18:46
    
If you look up the actual kit it references, a bottle capper and filler are included. midwestsupplies.com/homebrewing-equipment/equipment-kits/… –  dsidab81 Feb 8 '12 at 19:58
    
Keep and eye on homebrewfinds.com They always post the Midwest Groupon deal as well as many other awesome deals. –  tomcocca Feb 9 '12 at 2:19
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